Nantucket's Science Center                                               

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association
E-Comet Newsletter

Lone Star Ticks--An Imminent Invasion?
Picture provided by
The Lone Star tick ( Amblyomma americanum ) has moved into the Northeast over the past three decades but it has only rarely been seen on Nantucket.  However, it seems to be well established on Tuckernuck and it is bound to become more common here on Nantucket.  This tick is a large and fast moving tick and the females have a large white spot on their back.  Lone Stars can cause a condition called Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI). The vague name is a result of our limited understanding about STARI.  Dr. Sam Telford, a Vector-Borne Infections and Public Health professor at Tufts University, suggests being vigilant for this species.  If large numbers are found, the land owner should consider taking extreme measures to get rid of the population.
If you think you have found a Lone Star tick on Nantucket, please email MMA's Director of Natural Science at  We are also very interested in large aggregations of ticks, especially larval ticks (very tiny with only six legs).
Lemonade for the MMA
Last Friday, September 4th, Ella Griffiths and Caroline and Johnny Drapeau walked into the MMA office with a bulging envelope.  They told us that they spent their entire day, one of the few left in the summer, running a lemonade stand.  Instead of playing on the beach, like most other kids on Nantucket, these three decided that they wanted to raise money for the MMA.  It is acts of kindness like this that reassures us as an organization that we are making a difference.  Everyday we are inspired by amazing and generous children like Ella, Caroline, and Johnny.  Thank you for your dedication, donation, and love for the MMA!
Interior Work in the Library/Ecology Lab
The photograph you see here is the interior south wall of the MMA Library/EcologyLab. The patchwork you see is the terracotta tiles that make up the supporting walls of the building -- there is about an inch of stucco on the exterior and a half an inch of lime plaster on the inside walls and that's it. Those ridges you see are actually the terracotta tiles which make up the structural walls of the building. When built in the early 1930s, about three coats of a lime plaster were placed on the terracotta and then tempera paint which is the more yellow looking finish you see in areas where the plaster did not fail. If not for some leaks about a decade or more ago, the plaster would not have failed because everywhere else in the Wing the plaster is in excellent condition -- you can't beat lime plaster!
Read more HERE!
Upcoming Program:
Four Centuries Domestic Tour
Photograph Courtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association
This Saturday, September 12, at 10 AM, a walking tour will take place that looks at the changes in domestic life over four centuries and how it shaped homes, buildings, neighborhoods, and land use on Nantucket.  Join the Curator of the Mitchell House, the Nantucket Preservation Trust's Executive Director, and the Nantucket Historical Association's Education Staff on this walk back in time.  No reservations are required.  Participants should meet at the Oldest House on Sunset Hill.  $10 per person.
Did You Know?
Picture provided by "The Guardian"
Waking up in the middle of the night can still be scary for some of us adults, especially when you see or hear something unusual. For me, it was the Woodlouse spider that prevented me from falling back asleep.  The first thought that came to my mind when seeing Mr.Woodlouse was that he was going to jump off my bathroom wall and kill me.  Thankfully, our Director of Natural Science, Andrew McKenna-Foster, reassured me that the Woodlouse spider is not one to be feared by humans.  Woodlouse spiders, also known as Dysdera crocata are active hunters who keep a lair that can be filled with their previous meals. It enjoys eating Woodlouse (Sow bugs) and catches prey using its jaws instead of a web. The easiest way to identify a Woodlouse is by its blood-red colored legs!   
If you find an interesting animal/insect/marine creature on Nantucket, be sure to tag @Maria_Mitchell_Association or feature your image by sending it to
Host Your Next Event Under
the Stars
  Want to provide your guests with an unforgettable and unique evening?  Host them at our Loines Observatory.  Our gorgeous deck overlooks sensational sunsets and at night, the stars glitter like diamonds with a brightness only Nantucket can provide.  An astronomer will be at your service to show your guests majestic planets and star clusters through our world class telescopes.  This location is perfect for cocktail parties, birthday parties, corporate events, rehearsal dinners, and much more!
For more information please call Lauren at 508-228-9198 or email

New Member Benefits!
On September 15th, we will be updating our membership program.  Members will now have even more benefits!  Be on the lookout for an email from the MMA team or check back on our website to learn how you can become a 2016 member of the MMA.
Because members really do have more fun!
Nantucket Science Speaker Series
All presentations will take place at 33 Washington Street at
6 PM.  Lectures are free for Members.  Non-Members will be charged $10 per person.
        September 16

Dr. Arthur Swedlow

A popular lecture by Dr. Arthur Swedlow on our Universe without the gory details. Dr. Swedlow has taught Physics, Astronomy, Physical Science, and Anatomy & Physiology as a part-time adjunct professor for over 45 years.
September 23

Major John Reed, USAF, Ret.
Major John Reed, USAF Retired, was a pilot for 15 years with 2300 hours seat time and a total of 35 years of flying Infrared Scientific Research missions out of AFCRL at Hanscom Airfield, Massachusetts.

Stargazing Hours 

September Open Nights will take place Monday and Tuesday nights from 7:30PM to 9PM.  Open Nights are free for Members and $10 for Non-Members.  View distant stars and galaxies using the largest public telescope on the East Coast.


Name an Exoworld for America's First Woman Astronomer, Maria Mitchell
Photo from IAU
The International Astronomical Union (IAU), the largest organization of professional astronomers in the world, is sponsoring a contest to rename 20 stars and their associated planets. The IAU is the official naming organization for astronomical bodies, and the public gets to vote on the names. The MMA has proposed that a star currently known as Andromedae 14 be renamed "Maria Mitchell" and its accompanying planet be named '"William Mitchell." Help us honor Maria Mitchell by voting.

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         Maria Mitchell's Attic
       A blog about Maria Mitchell, the Mitchells, and the Mitchell House

September 10, 2015 
 4 Vestal Street
Nantucket, MA 02554
(508) 228-9198



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Board and Staff


John L. Daniels, President
Deb Manus, First Vice President
Helene M. Weld, Second Vice President
Joan Gulley, Treasurer
Patricia L.R. Brennan, Ph.D., Clerk
Howard Blitman
John Hartner
Judy MacLeod
Malcolm MacNab, M.D., Ph.D. 
Toni McKerrow
Michael Nelson

Mary Archibald (Bebe) Poor, D.V.M.  

Katherine Rhode, Ph.D.
Eileen Rudden

Anne P. Strain
Edward Symes, III



Administration (508)228-9198

David Gagnon, Executive Director


Joan Alison Stockman, Director of Finance & Administration

George Donnelly, Director of Development & Communications

Sarah Erichsen, Development Coordinator

Lauren Berlin, Administrative & Marketing Assistant
Astronomy (508)228-9723
Gary Walker, Interim Director of Astronomy/Astronomer and Telescope Engineer
Vladimir Strelnitski, Ph.D.,
Maria Mitchell Observatory's Director Emeritus 
Mitchell House & Archives and Special Collections (508)228-2896
Jascin Leonardo Finger, Deputy Director & Curator of the Mitchell House, Archives, and Special Collections
Natural Science (508)228-9198
Andrew Mckenna-Foster, Director of Natural Science
Education (508)228-9198
Kim Botelho, Director of Education

Research Associates 
 Robert Kennedy, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow
Edith F. Andrews, Ornithologist Emeritus
Peter Boyce,  Ph.D., Research Associate
Valerie A. Hall, Ph.D., Research Associate

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Maria Mitchell Association
4 Vestal Street, Nantucket, MA 02554
phone: (508) 228-9198
fax: (508) 228-1031
Maria Mitchell Association